159 pages / July 2020 / 1,200 (w/o tax)
How Dassai broke the mold to achieve international success in the world of sake. Kenshi Hirokane, creator of the popular Kosaku Shima manga series, details how a sake brewery took on the world from the mountains of Yamaguchi.
In 1984, Hiroshi Sakurai became the third-generation head of Asahi Shuzo, a small sake brewery located in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture.
One of the last remaining sake breweries in the area, and facing a nationwide shochu boom, sales remained low. Price reductions and novelty campaigns weren’t enough to turn business around.
Sakurai decided to try his hand at brewing junmai daiginjo, the highest grade of sake. Ignoring opposition, he experimented with a variety of recipes, only to keep falling short of creating just what he had in mind.
Finally, nearly six years of devotion gave birth to his very own junmai daiginjo variety, which he named Dassai. In 1992, Sakurai pushed the limits of rice polishing, creating Dassai 23, which boasts a polishing rate of 23%.
Initially, the failures of Sakurai’s new business venture forced the master brewer and other staff to leave Asahi Shuzo. Determined to keep moving forward, he and the remaining employees turned their focus to four-season brewing. Furthermore, he cut ties with wholesalers and began dealing directly with liquor shops.
Sakurai had his eyes set on Tokyo, and then the rest of the world.
Manga – Dassai’s Challenge
The birth of Dassai
Struggle invites opportunity!
Taking on the world
Yamada Nishiki short-grain rice
Essay – Dassai’s secret to success
I first met Asahi Shuzo head, Hiroshi Sakurai, in the spring of 2019. We had lunch while he spoke in-depth about Dassai – how it all began, and how it took the world by storm. A meeting with manga artist, Kenshi Hirokane, gave birth to a surreal collaboration with this book arriving nearly a year later. It details the exceptional success story of a sake brand, but the message is applicable to anyone striving for greatness in their own craft.